If you have injuries sustained in a car accident, and your case is going to trial, you may be feeling overwhelmed and unsure. The purpose of this article is to outline the general form your trial will might take.
Exactly when your trial will take place is difficult to predict. The date of your trial depends on the number of cases waiting to be heard in your particular county or jurisdiction, as well as the number of judges available. Nonetheless, your lawyer should be able to tell you approximately when your case will reach trial. In most jurisdictions, it takes roughly a year. You will receive plenty of notice and your attorney will help prepare you for the process.
The trial generally follows a relatively predictable format, but it will not resemble anything you’ve seen on television. Most trials begin with the judge calling the lawyers, clients and prospective jurors into the courtroom. Once the jury is selected, the trial will commence with opening statements from both sides. An opening statement provides a “roadmap” for the case—a summary of each side’s argument and the evidence that will be presented. The two opening statements—given by your attorney in the defendant’s attorney—will tell two different stories of what happened, who is at fault and, as a result, what the proper outcome should be.
After the opening statements are complete, it’s your lawyer’s job to present your case. Generally, the case will begin with you coming to the witness stand for direct examination. Following your attorney’s questions, you will be cross-examined by the defense attorney. This allows the other side to ask questions designed to elicit responses that reflect the defendant’s view of the case. Other witnesses will also testify on your behalf, who may include your doctor, employer, friends, family and any witnesses who can testify about the incident or your injuries. Nonetheless, your testimony is critical—it sets the tone of the case and establishes your credibility in the eyes of the jury.
After your attorney has finished presenting your case, the defense lawyer is then allowed to present their side by calling witnesses for the defense. The defense lawyer presents the witnesses through direct examination and, in a similar fashion, your attorney is then allowed to cross-examine them.
Once both attorneys have finished calling all their witnesses and presenting all their evidence, the judge will instruct the jury on the law and its application to your particular case. After instructions, the attorneys will be given the opportunity to present closing arguments, which summarize the case and request that the jury return a particular verdict. Your lawyer will be allowed to go first, followed by the defense attorney, after which your lawyer will be offered a brief time to present a rebuttal.
The jury will then be allowed to deliberate your case in a closed room. Although it is impossible to say how long it will take for the jury to reach a verdict, the trial ends when the judge calls everyone back into the courtroom and the verdict is announced. You’ll learn at that time whether or not you have won your case and how much money, if any, the jury has awarded you.